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How Will This Year's El Niño Affect California?

How Will This Year's El Niño Affect California?

CALIFORNIA - As El Niño continues to develop, many weather organizations have been debating what the strength of this year’s conditions will be. But one thing forecasters can agree upon is that extra rain, while it will not alleviate the drought conditions, would be more than welcome in the Golden State.

As we’ve previously reported, El Niño is a warming of a certain patch of the central Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide, associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere, a generally warmer globe, and fewer Atlantic hurricanes.

A CNBC analysis of annual California rainfall over the past 60 years shows a significantly wetter rain season that averages up to five extra inches of rain during “moderate” to “very strong” El Nino events. CNBC reports that the six wettest years on record for the last 50 years in California followed at least a moderate El Niño recording. The likelihood that the United States will experience an El Niño through summer is now 90 percent, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

As severe as California's drought has become, a strengthening El Niño season could mean that showers are on the way, bringing some much needed moisture to California. The issue is that El Niño may cause some problems of its own.

Mainly, due to California being a mountainous state, it is more susceptible to landslides than places like Texas and Oklahoma. CNBC reports that in 1982, more than 30 people died when 18,000 landslides ripped through the San Francisco region, destroying more than 7,000 homes and businesses and causing nearly $1 billion in inflation-adjusted damage. This again occurred in 1998, causing $200 million in damage, according to some estimates. Both years presented particularly strong events—the only two in history to be categorized as "very strong," which means ocean temperatures were at least 2°C above average. 

While those 5 extra inches will be a welcome sight to our California soil, we may be seeing those unpleasant aspects of El Niño as well. Stay tuned as we keep you updated on this developing weather pattern.